Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Planning bites: Internet sweepstakes

In the late 1990's before everyone and their mother had email access in purses and pockets, I worked at Cyber Cafe in Quito, Ecuador- El Centro Mágico. At this cafe, you could email, spend the night (it doubled as a hostel) and drink Cubra Libre's, which were complimentary after your first hour of surfing the web.

Cotopaxi, Ecuador's amazingly high mountain
El Centro Mágico was really just that- a magical place to meet young travelers and bi-lingual Ecuadorians. My chicas and I spent numerous hours emailing our then boyfriends and always worried mothers that we were OK. For Ecuador, 1999 was no party. They had just dollarized when President Jamil declared a 60 day state of emergency and called out the military to staff basic services. Incan villagers marched into the capital in protest of soaring prices (there was 65% devaluation of the national currency). In response to halted oil production, taxistas and bus drivers burned fires in the middle of prominent intersections. A doll of President Jamil hung on a noose on a skyscrapers facade. My 16-week study abroad was briefly cancelled. It was my first exposure to true political mayhem and I loved it....and El Centro Magico was the center of it all- at least for my friends and I. Too bad internet Cafes aren't what they used to of today- in Beaufort County if you are interested in opening one- you'll have to abide by some new rules.

At the December 14, 2010 Council Meeting, the City of Washington amended its zoning ordinance to allow Cyber Cafes (Internet Sweepstakes, online gaming centers) to operate as a special use in the light industrial district (I-2). The text amendment also limits the hours of operation (8am-12am), distance between other establishments (2,500 linear feet) and an annual renewal of the special use permit is required. Those operating outside of the I-2 district are grandfathered and are not subject to relocation, as long as they remain operable.

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